Goggle technology is rapidly advancing these days and leading the charge are those enabled by Recon Instruments’ heads up display (HUD). Currently, there are three different HUD models (Transcend, MOD (Micro Optics Display), MOD Live) and seven companies embracing them: Oakley, Zeal and Smith all offer models with the system already installed while Scott, UVEX, Briko and Alpina offer “Recon Ready” models that the unit can be added to.
We got our hands on the Oakley Airwave and Zeal Z3 GPS Live models, both of which utilize the premium MOD Live system and come with the HUD tucked inside the lower corner of the frame just underneath the right eye. Because the display is so close to the retina, it was developed with a prism that makes the screen appear as if it were 14 inches wide and about 5 feet away–very easy to focus on.
On the exterior right side of the goggle, underneath the strap, are a small power button and USB port. Charging can be done via this USB port or the included AC adapter, which will charge slightly faster at about 2.5-3 hours for a full charge. The runtime will depend on the temperature they are being used at. Recon advertises a battery life of 5-6 hours at a temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit but also adds that “faster skiers” may experience shorter battery life due to windchill. Apparently we’re pretty fast because the Airwaves lasted for about 4 and a half hours.
Included with the MOD and MOD Live systems is a small remote that can be worn on the wrist or around the goggle strap. The remote is powered by low energy Bluetooth with a battery that doesn’t require charging and only needs to be replaced every 3 years (We’ll confirm this for you in about 2 years and 11 months).
The HUD has five main screens that you can cycle through with your remote and of those, the Dashboard will be your home base. This customizable screen displays info such as your current speed, max speed, vertical feet and air time. Scrolling to the right will bring up your live feed. This will display any and all of the notifications shown down here to the right:
One more click right will bring you to the Apps/Settings screen. In settings you can sync your goggles to your smartphone and handle various other settings such as brightness and units of measurement. The App center allows you to sync a Contour camera and use the HUD as an in-goggle viewfinder, a very nice feature. You can also expect third-party apps to start popping up.
Scrolling to the left of the Dashboard will bring up your Radar screen. This defaults to a POV compass but will automatically load the trail map of over 650 different ski resorts upon your arrival to them. You can use this screen to navigate trails or find things on the mountain like restaurants and ski patrol. One more click left on your remote will bring you to the Music screen. Here you can control the music and volume on your smartphone via Bluetooth connection. Android users currently have an advantage over iPhone users with more in-depth controls in addition to receiving text messages, the ability to respond with with pre-programmed texts and having caller ID display in the HUD.
Essentially, many of the extra features offered by MOD Live vs those offered by MOD, benefit the Android system. While SMS features for iOS are currently not supported, Recon says that will change mid-season with a software upgrade, a new app and new remote, which will be provided free of charge to previous owners. Recon’s current app for smartphones is called Engage and allows you to use your phone as a remote, view stats, control music and track buddies around the mountain. Oakley also has one called Airwave that is essentially the same app that they branded.
The thought of having all this information displayed under your right eye as your skiing can seem pretty distracting, but we were surprised to find that it really wasn’t. The display itself is on an adjustable arm so it can be fine-tuned for whoever is wearing the goggle. When you want to look at it it’s easy to glance down but when you’re focused on skiing you really don’t even notice it (And you should be focused on your skiing most of the time).
The system does contribute to some loss of some peripheral vision as you might expect. In addition to the HUD, the electronics and battery are packed into the side of the frame and while it’s not terrible, it is noticeable. Of the two models tested, the slight advantage in peripheral vision goes to the Zeals, though both were comfortable and not too bulky when compared to a lot of the oversized goggles on the market. The positioning of the system also allows the lenses to be interchanged without interference (Oakley’s Airwave appears to have the HUD integrated into the lens but it’s just a styling component).
When you get home from the mountain you can upload all the info you’ve recorded to your computer to review and/or share it with friends online via a free download of Recon’s Engage software. You can also delete the info off of your goggle to free up space on the 512mb internal memory card. All of your runs are automatically separated into separate trips (days) and displayed on Goggle Maps for you to review.
As you can see, these aren’t you’re dad’s goggles. There’s a ton of new technology packed into them and we’re excited to see how they evolve over the next few years with the addition of more apps and features. Currently, Zeal is offering all three different Recon models with the Z3 GPS Live retailing for $650, Z3 GPS for $550 and the Transcend GPS for $299. See below for detailed info on what each of the three models offer. Oakley is sticking with MOD Live in the Airwave which retails for $600.